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Lessons from working with IT

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The IT industry is a strange animal to work with. It is a fluid and dynamic environment with technology advancing daily, with components we have got used to, disappearing daily.

Remember, floppy drives, optical drives, dial up internet or phones with keyboards? How did we ever survive then without touch screen smartphones, SD cards and 1.0TB drives?

Currently we are in the ‘cloud’ period of technology with an almost total dependency on the internet for anything from social interaction to doing business at any level. Internet access is now more important than the type of device being used.

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Surely you have to be crazy to look to build a career in such a changing environment? Good IT professionals by their nature thrive in such an environment – as it requires them to re-skill themselves almost on a daily basis. They enjoy learning new things and testing themselves regularly.

Here are some pointers and lessons – for both clients and service providers – learned over the last decade in this frustrating, but much loved industry.

Firstly – IT companies usually promise much more than they can deliver. Many companies will use the lack of client knowledge in technology to ensure they maximize on their return, not necessarily to the benefit of the client.

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Sales pitches should never be believed without verifying online or requesting client references. A quick comparison of the range of online banking services offered in Malawi, and the user friendliness of such applications will give you a true picture of whether the client made the best choice.

I personally have been struggling unsuccessfully with two such banking applications recently.

User and corporate backups are usually forgotten, until they are needed. Most people do not bother, or set up a scheduled procedure and then never check on it.

Backups cannot be trusted. They must be monitored and checked each time. Assuming backups are complete is a very dangerous thing for you and your company.

As a follow on from backup, have you considered the use of Virtual Machine applications? Virtual machines (VM) are defined as a software implementation of a machine (a computer) that appears to the end users as if it were a physical or real machine.

VM licencing is now built into most of the Microsoft server software licencing. In simple terms it means that you can run a number of VM instances on one computer, and each one will be independent of each other. Backup and failover security is well covered by this functionality.

VM functionality is also built into Windows 10 – with the option of creating new desktops to better manage the number of applications you wish to open at the same time.

On cloud services, there remains the perception that no one will be able to work when the internet is down. This is true in a number of cases. However, ask yourself the question – what happens now, if your internet goes down?

Can you work or communicate with your colleagues?

I think we all have to accept that we are dependent on the internet most of the time, for our day to day work. With cloud services, it is time to bite the bullet. It appears that a number of large software suppliers – including Sage and

Adobe, are now only making their software applications available online and not as a stand alone package.

With regard to security, always remember that it is not “if ”, but “when” your desktop or server is compromised.

Always take the necessary anti malware, cleansing and monitoring precautions, as listed in last week’s column.

Finally, as an IT professional, remember this. As soon as you think you understand something, you then find out that you don’t. Technology is changing daily, and we in Africa can be at the forefront of new technology with early adoption enabling us to leapfrog the normal incremental changes in IT infrastructure and applications.

This requires an enabling economic environment and infrastructure – supportive legislation and a focus on training and education to encourage our young alert minds to apply themselves to technology in ways that can only benefit all of us.

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